Science & Paddling in Waterville Valley, NH

This post is only marginally related to paddling, but some of the pictures are nice and it did represent a unique paddling experience for me. In fact, we’re not even paddling in Minnesota with this post.

When I’m not taking pictures for paddling, I am most likely doing science. This year, I was able to attend the “Enzymes, Co-enzymes & Metabolic Pathways”Gordon Research Conference in Waterville Valley, NH. This week-long scientific conference series is know for its fabulous science, New England locations and sparse amenities. This was my first GRC, so I was fully expecting the much-touted communal bathrooms, poor food and dorm-style sleeping arrangements of these conferences. Much to my surprise (and many others), they had selected a new location, Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.

Waterville Valley Resort

Waterville Valley is normally a ski resort, but during the warm summer months, they utilize the facility as a vacation spot and conference location. I can say nothing but praise for the location, amenities and science presented. I won’t repeat the science here, but rather I will give a glimpse at the afternoon recreational activities that we had available.

Hiking up the mountain

They chartered an old school bus to take us to a nearby mountain for some afternoon hiking. The weather was a bit rainy, but under the cover of the trees, we hardly noticed the rain.

Babbling brook

Scattered everywhere were small streams and babbling brooks flowing down the mountain. Everything was quite beautiful, but we were on a tight schedule and had to keep moving.

Nearing the top

The wooded path turned more into bare rock and long vistas. This was the end of the “easy” path. Only the industrious scientists would push on to the true summit. I forget the vertical change, but this was about a third of the way we ultimately traveled. In fact, the grade would sharply increase after this point.

View of surrounding mountains and hills

After some far more dangerous climbing than I expected, we finally reached the top. We took a few moments to rest before heading back. I’m happy to say that the rolling hills covered with trees were a nice alternative to the more flat scenery I’m used to seeing.

View of surrounding mountains and hills

We all agreed that the climb down was far more scary than the climb up. Sliding down a 40% grade with nothing to stop you is an eye-opening experience. Despite a few people having inadequate footwear, everyone survived and the group bonded a bit more with our pack survival.

Back at Waterville Valley Resort

Back at the resort, we could choose from a number of local activities during our afternoon breaks. We rented some mountain bikes, took the ski lift up to the top, and had a great time enjoying gravity’s assistance. Pro tip: If the trail is marked closed, it probably is closed for a reason. Just because it looks fine for as far as you can see, it may switch over to a bog about two-thirds of the way down the mountain and make you carry your bike over your head while you slog in knee-deep muddy water.

Next to the rental kayaks is the ice skating rink

In addition to mountain biking, there was also shopping & ice skating available. The red shack above housed the ice rink.

Rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboat

Next to the ice rink were the canoes, kayaks and paddle boats also available for use. I had seen “kayaking” listed as a potential activity and looked forward to some mountain paddling. Unfortunately the paddling didn’t live up to my imagination, but any paddling is good paddling.

The paddling lake is quite small

Although I didn’t have my camera with me when I was actually kayaking, I did come back the next morning and snap some wonderful shots of the very still “lake”. We used the blue sit-on-top kayaks shown above. I’ve never used a sit-on-top before, and it was quite a bit more “tippy” than the recreational and inflatable kayaks I’ve used before. No falling in on this trip, but I wondered if I was going in a couple times.

The paddling lake is quite small

Unfortunately the “lake” was far smaller than expected. The sit-on-top foam kayaks were very easy to paddle and incredibly “friction-free” when compared to my inflatable kayak. It makes me wonder how much more drag my inflatable has compared to a good hardshell. I probably don’t want to find out and become to envious of a hardshell kayak…

Watch out for the dam

I have used quotes around the term “lake”, since this is actually a dammed mountain stream. As we paddled over to the dam, I expected to see some fencing or barriers to keep us away. Nope, if we wanted to paddle over the dam, we could have with no trouble. The only trouble would have been the 10 foot fall onto the rocks at the base of the dam. We kept our distance, but the stream flow was quite slow in the “lake”.

Still water

In order to give an idea of scale, the entire “lake” would take about 2 minutes to paddle from end-to-end. They had placed a few fake rocks and buoys out in the water to give you something to run into, er, I mean navigate around.

Still water

The water was quite cold and clear. I didn’t see any fish, but there were No-Fishing signs scattered on the shore.

The paddling lake is quite small

Despite my mild complaining about the size of the “lake”, it was quite nice and peaceful. The sights, especially in the morning sun, were about as good as I could have hoped. I’m unsure if I’ll ever get to do paddling at a scientific conference again, unless I bring my inflatable along.

Tranquil little lake

I’m still impressed with the stillness of the “lake” and the quality of the reflections.

Back at the boat house

In fact, I had to take a second to figure out which was was “up”, and which way was the reflection in this picture. I wonder what this looks like in the winter? I wouldn’t mind exploring the lake a bit more on ice skates.

Wonderful mountain stream provides a relaxing background music

Overall, I got to see some incredible science, meet-up with some old friends and enjoy the outdoors. I’m only a week or so away from my much-anticipated Boundary Waters camping and kayaking trip, so I can’t wait to get back home.

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